Total Depravity and a Tomato; A Story from Halloween 1985
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9
I clearly remember an event that took place on Halloween night when I was nine. I snuck over to a neighbor’s house for the sole purpose of doing something wrong. It was the home of a boy in the neighborhood; the neighborhood bully. I wanted to get back at him by pegging his house with a tomato. After all, it was Halloween night; the perfect night for such an act. Thinking about it now after all these years, it seems juvenile; and it was. But what sticks out to me is the wellspring of thoughts and emotions I had as I committed the act. To this day, I clearly remember grabbing a tomato out of the refrigerator and sneaking out of my house to complete the mission. I recall the path I took to his house, eventually hiding behind some shrubbery in his side yard. It was a thrill to sneak around the neighborhood when I should have been at home getting ready for bed. I quietly walked closer to his front door making sure I did not get too close. With a rush of adrenaline, I hurled the tomato at the door. I was so nervous, that I did not even linger around to see where the tomato landed. Instead, I ran back to my house, not stopping until I was back in my own yard. To be sure, it was an intense moment. I felt I had been with Jem and Scout in “To Kill A Mockingbird” harassing the family of Boo Radley. But really sticks out to me is how liberating it felt to be bad. I enjoyed sinning. I also felt as if I had had the last laugh when I came to the neighborhood bully. For me, this snapshot from my childhood reveals two truths about the human heart.
The heart of man finds pleasure in sin. When thinking back on the event, I am struck with how much enjoyment I found in committing the crime. I relished in the act, and though my behavior was dark and stained with sin, I found my actions to be as delicious to me as the tomato itself. This says much about the human condition; for it is in our nature to go against the grain of what is right, pure and holy. When we are born, we are naturally at odds with God because we are born with a sin nature (Romans 8:7-8). This is why people are naturally drawn to sin. You do not have to teach an infant to fuss or a child misbehave. The blueprint for sin is imbedded within our hearts since birth, as we inherited our sin nature from Adam (Romans 5:12). It felt good to not be where I was supposed to be (2 Samuel 11:1-2). In that moment I found pleasure in the sin of throwing the tomato (Hebrews 11:25) and it felt good to act in such a way that was inappropriate. And why Halloween night? Would I have done the same thing if it had any other night? Was there something about Halloween that made my actions more permissible? And what about the revenge in my heart towards my neighbor and the pride I felt in thinking that somehow I got the last laugh? John Calvin was right when he described the human heart as a factory of idols.
The heart of man can only be changed by God. This story from my life took place before my personal conversion to Christ. Seven years later, God saved me as He opened up my heart to the gospel (Acts 16:14) This is not to suggest that the wrestling match with sin had ended. But the difference after conversion was my response to sin. Prior to conversion, I loved sin. After conversion, I loathe sin. When God saves, He reorients our hearts to Him, transforming us into His likeness. We have been reconciled to Him (2 Corinthians 5:18) and are no longer enemies of God and lovers of evil (2 Timothy 3:2).
Has God changed your heart? If not, call upon him today with a sincere heart and He will save you (Romans 6:23).
– Pastor Eric